The tension built on the tracks where yellow critters gathered at the starting line, stretched their muscles and revved their slime glands in preparation for the big race last Saturday at the Port of Brookings Harbor boardwalk.

It took four heats to find which of 72 slugs, those slimy creatures that crawl on damp ground in the forests, would get to participate in the race to be grand champion of the 16th annual slug races.

All but 15 of the gastropod mollusks were raised and specially trained at a ranch in the rainforests of the Winchuck and were prepared for speed. Two snails tried to sneak in to the competition, but Slug Lady Pat Silveria, head race official and owner of Slugs 'N' Stones 'N' Ice Cream Cones, caught the slug impostors red-handed.

All of the slugs were willing to race as they knew it was for a good cause: South Coast Humane Society animal shelter. The event garnered $196.36 for the shelter, Silveria said.

In the first heat, 20 racers gathered to place their steeds into a plastic bag. The bags were laid flat and the races began. First slug completely out of the bag was the winner. Pokey and Stormy were the winners. Their handlers were Ken Cross and Colleen McComb.

Then came the second heat. Esmerelda won the race for her handler Fran Shimmin as did Speedy Reader, who delivered a prize for Pat Piper, owner of The Book Dock, a business next to the track.

Sluglush and Sluggo Player were the winners of the third heat, which kept slug jockeys Karen Davis and Kailah Clair happy. And finally, Hannah Bond put Shirley in the race as did Renatta Yunes with Gary (sans Spongebob Squarepants).

The fifth race would determine the grand prize winner. The eight heat finalists were set to race in a runoff. In the end, Shirley once again showed he/she (slugs are both) who was the fastest, and Bond was the recipient of a $25 gift certificate for Silveria's ice cream shop.